They say it takes 21 days to break a habit. How about 50 days? Or 75? Or even 100 days? For me, that day has just passed and, with it, a milestone I can't remember seeing in my adult life.
Yep, a dry January was never really too daunting, given three-quarters of October, November and December all passed in a state of complete sobriety. My dirty little secret - drinking coca cola at parties and telling white lies by hinting I had already had enough that night - is well and truly and out. I'm as sober as a judge, people.
When our habits and behaviours become cyclical, it may be time to press the pause button. For me, that moment was 100 days ago. Tired of waking up on a weekend to hazy recollections and painful hangovers, I stared at myself in the mirror and asked myself: 'who did I want to be?' Do I actually want to be this cliché? And, god forbid, do I even enjoy doing this?
In recent months, I've been having a good time in Nairobi, Kenya's capital, where the social scene is more than a little lively. This fuzzy phrase is really the most anodyne justification for drinking, isn't it? When do you start to realise that 'having a good time' segued into a having a bad time or having a time when you weren't fully present in the moment. When do you realise that 'having a good time' is really just a euphemism for 'wasting time'?
Advertisers love to play on the Hollywoodised depiction of alcohol consumption as cool and sexy, making drinking even more desirable. In Nairobi, there is a huge Johnny Walker Black Label poster which dazzles the senses, emblazoned with the slogan 'Keep Walking'. Heck, I'll say it: it looks cool.
But whilst the sugar-coated portrayal of drinking may be true in the world of television, if ad execs saw the after-affects of John down the local boozer or, to use a local equivalent, Boniface drinking their brand, I'm pretty sure they'd like the dynamic duo to take some time off.
And the song remains the same, wherever you are. I often smile wryly to myself as a Brit when we are lumped with the big drinkers stereotype. Sure, I've seen downtown UK on a Saturday night and it's hardly akin to having a quiet glass of red in a Venetian watering hole. But I've travelled the world and, from Sweden to Germany to Africa, people like to drink. A lot. And alcohol can be a real challenge for lots of people, wherever you go.
Cutting down on alcohol will obviously have an impact on your social life and I did try to attend parties and hang out in bars with old drinking buddies. With no booze, it enabled me to be much more present, but it also has the potential to be a source of controversy. Why aren't you drinking? The questions would tumble forth, as if there must be some burning issue around this monumental life moment. Why has drinking alcohol become so normalised in social situations that its opposite must trigger an immediate call to Dr. Phil?
And things change. People change; they stop calling after a while. "You disappeared," people would say. No, I didn't. I just found new things to do.
My world didn't collapse without alcohol; it just crystallised everything.
Just as the days of clear-thinking turned into weeks, so I added new hobbies to my life that had previously been dormant: fun-loving salsero, anyone? Tick. Working on my downward dog at ashtanga? You betcha. Throw in jumping out of planes from 12,000ft, judging a beauty talent contest and climbing mountains and you get the idea.
Never say never, but - for now - I'm going to keep walking.
What I learnt after 100 days without alcohol:
Get to know yourself better...
After a bad day, often our knee-jerk reaction can be to dash for the nearest bar, off-license or anywhere that sells alcohol. This is just another way of numbing your feelings. The more time spent sober, the more you get to know your own mind.
People either strengthen you or weaken you...
We are the sum of the five people we hang around with most, so motivational speaker Jim Rohn says. I can't socialise with world-beaters every day, but I can take decisive action and know that some relationships just aren't positive enough to keep.
Alcohol's no way to connect...
It may help oil the wheels in speaking to somebody, but it's never rooted in authenticity. The more you communicate on an honest level, the more it leaves people breathless. If the only gel bringing you together is a bar and booze, you may need to rethink your styling habits.
Starting new hobbies is a great way of staying dry...
Pick up new or revive dormant hobbies. For me, that was salsa. You'll start to realise that there do exist people for whom going out and enjoying themselves is just that and doesn't need to be a whiskey-swilling adventure.
*This post originally appeared on Kevin's blog, www.universityofinspiration.com